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December 2017

Criticisms of relationship fundraising (and why they are wrong)

At 13.00 UK today, I’m going to be interviewed on Facebook Live by Ravinol Chambers of Be Inspired Films. This is the third edition of the Institute of Fundraising’s #FRED talks and I’ll be talking about why relationship fundraising is more important than ever.

Do tune in and ask any questions you might have!

To whet your appetite, here is a short edited extract from Donors for Life: A practitioner’s guide to relationship fundraising, that looks at some of the major criticisms of relationship fundraising.

Three major criticisms of relationship fundraising – and why they’re wrong…

  1. Not everyone wants a relationship/you can’t treat everyone the same

The argument that not everyone wants a relationship with a nonprofit would be a valid one if you take too literal a definition of ‘relationship’ and compare it to that of husband and wife, brother and sister, etc. Similarly, some people take relationship fundraising to mean that you treat all donors the same and give everyone the same levels of service and personalisation regardless of their level of giving.

Let us be clear. Nowhere in the literature is it suggested, or even implied, that this is the sort of relationship you should try to nurture with all your donors.

The definition of relationship we use is much looser. A relationship exists (whether you like it or not) from the moment a donor or potential donor interacts with your nonprofit. Your job is to make sure that the interaction leaves a good impression and makes the donor want to continue to support your cause or takes him or her a step closer to making a first donation.

Different donors deserve different levels and types of relationship depending on their own personal values, needs, wants and desires. The good relationship fundraiser will be aware of this, will act accordingly and do nothing that will harm the donor’s support for her or his cause.

I’ve written about this over at Rogare when they published their review of relationship fundraising, which is well worth a read.

2 Relationship fundraising is too soft and woolly

Another argument we often hear is that relationship fundraising is used as an excuse for not asking for donations, or it takes too long to see the results so is not worth the effort.

Again, let us be clear, relationship fundraising without asking is like a Formula 1 car without petrol. They both look the part, but fail as the key component of their success is missing.

It’s  crucial that you measure and record the impact of your relationship fundraising efforts. This means you can demonstrate the improvement on lifetime value and return on investment to your chief executive and board. If you don’t do this, then short-term decisions can be taken that damage the relationship but boost immediate returns.

Remember, relationship fundraising is only worth doing if it raises more money in the long term than pursuing alternative strategies.

  1. Relationship fundraising is great in theory, but hard in practice

There is no doubting that relationship fundraising is challenging to implement. It requires hard work, focus and a commitment to create a fundraising team culture where long-term results outweigh short-term priorities.

We also recognise that there are other ways to raise money. Some of these can undoubtedly be successful. For example, we know of many charities that have raised millions of pounds by pursuing a very transactional, incentive-led direct marketing programme.

When donor recruitment costs are low there is also little incentive to improve the lifetime value of supporters and build long-lasting relationships. You can simply treat donors like a commodity and get some new supporters in to replace those who stop giving. Although effective, it is, perhaps, not very satisfying.

It’s our steadfast belief that soon charities won’t have a choice about whether to improve the donor experience and service. As donors stop giving in larger numbers and the costs of donor recruitment become ever higher, then the only way to fundraise cost-effectively will be by retaining donors for longer periods and maximising their lifetime value.


Fundraising Reading Round-Up - November 2017

Well, after a nearly a year off blogging I thought it was time to get back to it!

2017 has been an amazing year and the lack of blogging has been due to two reasons.

Most excitedly, September saw the publication of my first fundraising book, Donors for Life - A Practitioner's Guide to Relationship Fundraising. Co-authored with Paul Stein and with a foreword from Ken Burnett, it aims to give fundraisers ideas, tip and practical advice on how to implement relationship fundraising and improve the supporter experience.

It has had rave reviews from the likes of Roger Craver at the Agitator and Pamela Grow. I'll be sharing some of my favourite content on the blog in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, you can order the book via White Lion Press or on Amazon in the UK or US.

Secondly, February saw me launch my new fundraising consultancy. The year has flown by as I've worked on a variety of projects with some amazing clients. If you'd like to know more, then check out the consultancy services page or get in touch for a chat.

Right, adverts over! On with the round-up.

November reading round-up

I've been thinking about segmentation, values and identity a lot recently. I've had the nagging feeling we've been doing it wrong as a sector. This recent series on the Agitator has really helped my consolidate my thoughts. It really is an essential read for anyone who wants to improve the donor experience. There are lots of posts on the subject, but these two are good summaries and starting points: Flying Blind Fundraising and Stop Telling Your Donors Who They Are.

Richard Turner has been another person who has had a big influence on my thinking in the last couple of years. Here he explains why 'Everyone is a channel' is not another channel.

SOFII's latest case study is the story of the NSPCC's Full Stop campaign as told by Giles Pegram CBE. A fascinating read for anyone interested in transformational appeals.

The Clairification blog shares a 3-Word Recipe Guaranteed to Raise Money.

Grammarly is one of my favourite apps. Pamela Grow explains why it is so useful.

Bloomerang take a close look at surveys with three examples from nonprofits and lessons from customer satisfaction surveys.

For Impact look at strategic plans v strategic clarity.

Donor Voice share tips for science based design.

Rogare's Ian MacQuillin argues that fundraising regulation needs to be better.

Paul Vanags takes a considered look at fundraising and comms integration. Spoiler: he's not in favour!

Tobin Aldrich ask how do we engage our board in major giving?

Would £10,000 motivate you to have a good idea? Lucy Gower with a lovely story about her dad and British Airways.

Joe Jenkins of the Children's Society is interviewed by the Hope Agency and explains about the changing business model of fundraising.

 Some lovely, heart warming stories from the winners of the 2017 Justgiving Awards. You can also read the first part of their best campaigns of 2017.

According to the Veritus Group emotional intelligence trumps strategy in major gifts.

The Fundraising is Awesome blog take a close look at Wikipedia's winning donation ask banner. Fascinating results.